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Monday, March 01, 2021

In 2013, Punjab Assembly passed Contract Farming Act with virtually no debate

Tomar recently highlighted penal clauses for farmers in Act.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh |
February 9, 2021 11:17:32 am
The Bill was tabled in the House by then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal along with 14 other Bills in a short span of time.

The Punjab Contract Farming Act, 2013 was passed by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha in March 2013 with virtually no discussion at all on its provisions, including the penal clauses referred to recently by the Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, with just a solitary BJP MLA speaking on it and praising it.

Tomar had recently highlighted the fact that the Punjab Contract Farming Act passed by the Punjab Assembly had certain clauses that penalised the farmer for not meeting the obligations of the contract entered into by him with the purchaser.

The Indian Express accessed Punjab Vidhan Sabha proceedings pertaining to March 2013 which show that the Punjab Contract Farming Bill, 2013 was introduced in the Assembly by the SAD-BJP government on March 25 that year.

The proceedings reveal that only the then BJP MLA from Jalandhar (Central), Manoranjan Kalia, spoke on the Bill, calling it a very good bill and sought a clarification.

The Bill was tabled in the House by then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal along with 14 other Bills in a short span of time.

The principal opposition party at the time, Congress, was boycotting the sitting of the House and its MLAs were not present in the House when the Bill was passed and later became an Act.

The Act, as it was passed by the Assembly, states: “If the producer contravenes the provisions of the Act, shall on conviction be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to one month or with fine which shall not be less than Rs 5,000 but may extended to Rs 5 lakh or with both and in the case of a continuing contravention with the fine which in addition to such fine as aforesaid may extend to Rs 100 for everyday after the date of first conviction during which contravention is continued.”

Speaking in the Assembly, Manoranjan Kalia, who had also remained a minister in the SAD-BJP government, had praised the bill. “Honourable Speaker, the Bill which the Chief Minister has introduced for contract farming in agriculture is very good. This will result in the farmers of the state in getting good prices,” he said.

Kalia, however, sought a clarification on the Bill regarding one of the clauses on agreement between buyer and purchaser.

“Agreement means the contract farming agreement between the buyer, who offers to purchase the produce and the producer, who agrees to produce the crop, under which the production and marketing of an agriculture produce is carried out as per the conditions laid down in the agreement,” the Clause 2 B states in the Bill (now Act).

Kalia observed that this clause does not give the definition of the producer. “Can the tenant enter into a contract or not. Because the owner can enter into a contract and if he has give the land for farming to someone then there is no clarification in this whether the tenant can do contract farming or not. I would want this clarification. Otherwise this Bill is in the interests of Punjab and its farmers,” Kalia had told the House.

However, the proceedings show that no answer was received by Kalia to his observation and the Speaker proceeded to start the process for passing the Bill amidst replies of “yes” by the MLAs present in the House and the Bill was finally passed.

President of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Sunil Jakhar, who was the Leader of Opposition at the time the Bill was passed, said that while the party may have been boycotting the session at the time, the detrimental clauses were raised by him subsequently in the House.
When asked why the Congress did not repeal the Act all this while that it has been in power since 2017, Jakhar said, “This is a defunct Act. Even rules were not framed for it. It did not come into effect. Parkash Singh Badal realised his blunder that the Akalis have dug their own political grave by bringing this Bill and did not implement the Act. It was just a piece of paper. We will reject it totally in Assembly if need be and will to settle it for once and all. I will request the CM to do so in the forthcoming budget session”.

Jakhar added that Tomar should have been “cornered” in Rajya Sabha for having made comments on the contract farming act. “Our Rajya Sabha members should have been more active and he should have been hoisted by his own petard for BJP first having brought this Act in Punjab and then tom-tomming the contents of it,” he said.

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